The great ache

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It’s no secret now that I am expecting; I’m currently 7 months pregnant. I can genuinely say that, as I expected, each and every day feels like we’re in a dream. It’s truly unbelievable that this is happening to us, and still unfathomable that we may really hold this boy in September and he will forever be a part of our family. However unimaginable that is to you, dear reader, it still feels to me, as I sit here with a bump and am piecing together a little nursery.

I still don’t know for sure how long this blog will continue. God keeps providing things to write and share, so I keep posting them. But I won’t pretend that I will forever have relevant words to speak into the despair in the hearts of barren women. I will always care deeply, and always have the wisdom and insight I gained from my experience, but my lessons in life will keep developing and changing and so will the fresh thoughts I have to offer.

There is one thing that clings to my heart that I’ve been wanting to write about.

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While I know that as the months and years go on, I will forget many parts of infertility and think of it less, there is one aspect that will always stick with me. I still feel it anew when I hear about or meet a woman struggling with infertility. It’s that terrible, deep aching that no one else can understand unless they’ve been through it, too.

Though I did not struggle with jealousy, by God’s grace, I remember that great ache when someone would post a pregnancy announcement or new baby photo on Facebook. It was a pain that instantly pierced my heart. Sometimes I moved on from there, and sometimes my soul would whisper to the Lord, “Will it ever be us??”

I recall last summer as we were still waiting for Him and praying through treatment options (which we later did, without success), some days we spent visiting family when I, for some reason, could not shake the ache all day. Little did they all know that just an inch beneath my surface I was absolutely dying. If the right (or wrong) words had been said, I would’ve burst into tears in an instant. The ache was haunting me.

Many, many mornings I would wake up with the ache. Will it be today, Lord? I would wonder. And more often, going to bed, my husband and I would ache together, praying in sobs that mercy would finally come soon. Just say something, Lord. We are dying down here. 

When I hear about a woman’s infertility, that’s the first thing I think of — that ache. How, even fighting obsession and keeping her eyes fixed on Christ, it can be so hard not to think about it some days. Even taking all of your joy from the Lord, the sadness can hang over like a cloud.

The truly hardest part for me was not knowing if it would ever end. So few trials in life could be endless, but this one had real potential. Would the ache be there forever? Will I have to just get over it? Is that even possible? I would look at older, childless couples and wonder if the ache was still there. Or did their mercy just come in the removal of the ache?

But what sweetness in knowing that others know our burdens, and even more so – that God feels our ache. Now that we’re in a different season, I feel closer with the Lord, knowing He always knew that silent ache that most others never saw at all. I know it’s hard to feel right now, but He really knows your heart. He is walking beside you and aching with you and holding the better plan in His hands. And I’m so sorry for your aching — mercy is on its way, my friend. I’m no one to know how or when, but hold on to hope!

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He will tear it away

I’m currently caught up in a fascinating book called Lives of the Three Mrs. Judsons, which chronicles the lives and ministries of Adoniram Judson‘s three wives (who were his wives in succession, not the same time, of course… they each passed away in turn).  Tonight I’m reading more of the story of his first wife Ann, who had the hard role of being the wife in the very start of his rough ministry to Burma. This book, which largely consists of many of her letters and journal entries, profoundly speaks to my heart as I have lived through and am living through so much that is like what they have experienced. It’s a very specific sort of life, and so touching when we find the rare occasion of having someone else understand it.

Well in tonight’s reading, Mrs. Judson had her first baby, a boy, who then died when he was eight months old. At that time they were totally alone on the field, and they struggled a lot to find daily joy. They had found much delight in their baby Roger.

In relating to their struggles, and rejoicing when they had a baby, it broke my heart to read of his passing (though I’ve heard their general story before, and know Mr. Judson eventually lost several children in his life). But more than anything, it touched my heart to read the words she wrote at the height of her grief, in a letter to her parents informing them of the loss. What a perfect perspective.

“But God has taught us by affliction what we would not learn by mercies — that our hearts are His exclusive property, and whatever rival intrudes, He will tear it away.”

What depth in such a time of raw emotion! What spiritual maturity!

Here are a couple other meaningful quotes from her in that time of trial and mourning:

“Our hearts were bound up in this child; we felt he was our earthly all, our only source of innocent recreation in this heathen land. But God saw it was necessary to remind us of our error and strip us of our little all. Oh may it not be in vain that He has done it. May we so improve it that He will stay His hand and say, ‘It is enough.'”

When speaking of all the nights of joy their son brought them, she concludes,

“Yet this is denied us, this must be removed, to show us that we need no other source of enjoyment but God Himself.”

Her spiritual depth really leaves me speechless, so I’ll just leave it at that.

Bring the Rain

A perfect song about the sweetness of sorrow.

When you pass through the waters I will be with you

For those days when you are desperately wondering where God is in all of this, He says this to His people in Isaiah 43:2…

When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you;
when you walk through fire you shall not be burned,
and the flame shall not consume you.

Where is He? He’s right there with you.

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Book Recommendation – “I Will Carry You” (Miscarriage, Child loss and Stillbirth)

Out of nowhere this book popped into my head this evening and I knew it was perfect for this blog. I haven’t read it, but I have had two different sets of friends recommend it. One couple experienced just about the same story as the couple in this book — they found out at their 5-month ultrasound that their baby had a chromosomal issue that made him “incompatible with life” (cringe, I know — those are the doctors’ words, not mine). She carried full-term, against an abortion recommendation, and he passed away while she was in labor. Later they sent out an e-mail to all of their prayer supporters and mentioned how this book was really encouraging and helpful to them while preparing for that loss.

angiesmithIt stood out to me because we are friends with another couple who has lost two children. One passed away in a car accident as a 9-month-old baby, and after having another healthy child she was pregnant a third time with a baby who passed away in her 8th month for unknown reasons. She delivered soon after. Later she also recommended this book to people in similar circumstances.

So, you may want to read it if you are facing or have faced something similar, or even if you are just struggling with infertility in general but may find comfort or encouragement in her words regarding grief and loss (I was touched by a woman who spoke at my church’s infertility conference on the grief of infertility, as it is at least loss of a dream and a hope, if not more).

It’s called I Will Carry You: The Sacred Dance of Grief and Joy by Angie Smith. She is the wife of the lead singer of the band Selah. They produced the song below about the loss of their daughter. Below that, I am including a video of the couple sharing their story.

“God never says ‘no'” (and other lies that disappoint)

About a year ago in my small group we were discussing God’s will and prayer. One very sweet woman, in sharing her thoughts, said this quote:

God never says, “No.” He only says, “Yes” or “Wait.”

When she said it, people made a contented sigh at the lovely idea, myself included. It wasn’t until later, while I was riding home on the subway and reflecting on our discussion, that I reconsidered it and had to confess to myself, “Um, wait a minute. That’s not true.”

truthI think similar refrigerator-magnet devotional thoughts get tossed to and fro at an especially high rate when someone is going through a hard time. It’s like people need to say something, and they figure it’s better to say anything that sounds nice — even if it’s not true in the slightest — than to say nothing at all. And people who are struggling without a solid foundation beneath them will take anything they can get.

Last spring I Skyped in to a conference at my church on infertility, miscarriage and child loss. At one point they had a panel of women who had experienced such tragedies, and they were asked a variety of questions. One question was, “What is the least comforting thing someone said to you in your affliction?” There were a few unkind things to mention, but the responses that stuck out to me were non-truths like the one above. One woman, a friend of mine who lost one baby in a car accident and another in stillbirth, said the thing that bothers her the most is when people try to comfort her by saying her babies are now angels. While she knows they mean well, it irks her to hear things like that that just aren’t true, and therefore aren’t comforting to someone who knows truth.

So let me address the fallacy about prayer mentioned above. Let me say that yes, we always have hope in prayer. God can do anything, and He makes lots of promises about prayer in scripture. I can’t explain it, but at the same time, it is true that God sometimes just says “no” to our requests. There are biblical examples of this. Continue reading ““God never says ‘no’” (and other lies that disappoint)”

Psalm 147 – If you’re brokenhearted

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Psalm 147

1 Praise the Lord!

For it is good to sing praises to our God;

for it is pleasant, and a song of praise is fitting.

2 The Lord builds up Jerusalem;

he gathers the outcasts of Israel.

3 He heals the brokenhearted

and binds up their wounds. Continue reading “Psalm 147 – If you’re brokenhearted”

Reblog – What Nobody Tells You About Miscarriages

a hundred affections

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When miscarriage strikes, nobody hands you a fact-sheet with what to expect in the aftermath.   It certainly would have helped.

When I miscarried last year, I was astonished to later find out that so many women I knew had miscarried as well. It’s a personal matter – and rightly so – but, in a lot of ways, it would have been so helpful if women talked about it more! I know it would have helped me.

This is the topic of my second blog post published over at Fertility Authority: What Nobody Tells You About Miscarriages (Because Nobody Talks About It).  If you have struggled with a miscarriage, are living in the aftermath, or have ever wondered if what you are going through is normal – here’s my ‘fact-sheet’ for you: my version of ‘What I Wish I Had Known.’

It won’t necessarily heal the pain, but for…

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A call to all the dead and disappointed

I hope God uses this song to remind you that you ARE alive in Him today!

This is a call to all the dead and disappointed, 
The ones who feel like they are done.
This is a word to all the ones who feel forgotten, 
But you are not, 
Oh you are not.

You’ll get through this

I know some of you are in your darkest hour. I remember what it was like to be in the deepest depths of the pit of despair. I remember walking around my house and spontaneously bursting into tears, even surprising myself with the level of sorrow inside of me. I remember lying in bed, inconsolable and broken, literally crying out to the Lord in my weariest, tear-soaked voice, “Where are You? Where are You?” I remember thinking it was never going to get better.

ps40The Lord has not yet given me a child, but He did answer many of my prayers to make it better. Little by little, He dug me out of the pit and provided the joy and strength I needed. It’s not always totally better, but it’s better than it was.

And in remembering this, I think of so many of you who may be reading this, aching inside, dying inside, lying broken at the bottom of the valley. And you don’t need a lesson, a rebuke or even a Bible verse. You just need to be reminded: You’ll get through this. It’ll get better. You can do this. I know it seems unthinkable, relentless, unbearable and hopeless. But you can do this. This is not the end of your journey. There is hope — there is always hope. It’s bad now, but it will not always be like this.

If no one else has told you yet, let me be the first: you’re going to get through this.

You’re in good company. Before His death, Jesus pleaded with God to spare Him from the coming agony. God didn’t. On the cross, I believe, He had His time in the pit, as He was crying out, like you and me, “My God, my God, why have You forsaken Me?” But God came through for Him, and He will for you.

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If you are seeking advice, the best I can say for today is to start praying earnestly that God will give you what you lack inside. For me, it was real strength, joy, peace, and hope. And He will be faithful and give you those things. It may take a few days, weeks, even months. But He will not leave you in this pit. He will come for you.

It’s going to be ok.